History

Founded on 14 April 1948, the Crimson Key Society (CKS) was formed to provide the Harvard Athletic Association with an organization responsible for meeting incoming athletic teams and providing accommodations for their members.  Quickly expanding, CKS consisted of three subcommittees by 1952.  The Athletic Committee maintained its ties to Harvard Athletics.  The Orientation Committee offered campus tours to entering freshmen and organized opening mixers; later in the year, they gave tours of the upperclass houses to freshmen.  The Undergraduate Schools Committee, which was involved with Harvard Clubs nationwide, recruited prospective students and housed them during campus visits.  This committee also published Keystone, the society’s first paper, as well as the Extra-Curricular Activities Bulletin, containing dates and times of the programs of all undergraduate organizations, sport events of special interest to the college, and current movies.

Originally, CKS also sponsored All-College Weekend, a festival in early May that sought to bring the four classes of Harvard together in a unique extravaganza that included a regatta, a square dance, and a masquerade ball.  By 1955, however, this event was abandoned and campus tours became the focus of the Society’s efforts.

Today’s Crimson Key Society differs from that of 60 years ago, but its mission has not changed.  Though CKS no longer recruits students, it still organizes Freshman Week with the Freshman Dean’s Office.  Activities sponsored by CKS for the freshmen include a talent show, an a cappella concert, a mixer, an ice-cream party, class trips, and the traditional showing of the movie Love Story.  In addition, an information tent is set up in the yard for the week to provide freshmen with a convenient place to ask questions. Though CKS no longer gives tours to prospective students, the Society continues to lead historical tours of the Harvard campus for both official University guests, through the Marshal’s Office, and general visitors to the University, through the Information Center.  Throughout the year, CKS also offers special tours during reunions, helps the Parents Association with Freshman and Junior Parents Weekends, and assists the University in various capacities during both Commencement Week and the annual ARTS First celebration.